What do an Amiga A600 and the Raspberry PI have in common? Well at the time of their release, both were considered small micro computers. So what do you get when you combine the quad core power of a RPI-2 Model B and the compact design of an Amiga 600? In theory, a compact quad core Amiga, that runs Linux. But that’s just a theory right? No one’s actually gone to the trouble of making such a freaky hybrid have they? Well actually yes, in fact plenty of people have been putting Raspberry Pi in all sorts of things, ranging from Spectrums, C64s, toasters and pants. Ok I made that last one up, but you just wait, the day is coming when someone will develop digital ‘smarty’ pants. That day is coming my friend. Most of the time the A1200 and A500 are utilised for modding purposes, most likely because of the space afforded in both machines.
Measuring in at 14” by 9.5” and 3” high, the A600’s small size works against it for modding purposes, it also lacks a full size keyboard, so there is no numerical pad. Even back in 1992, the A600 came under fire from people criticising the short comings of its design. For a machine intended to replace the aged A500+, it did a pretty poor job in many respects. Later the managing Director of Commodore UK, David Pleasance, would describe the A600 as a “complete and utter screw-up”
As a kid at the time, I recall thinking the A600 looked like a waste of time compared to my expanded A500+. It wasn’t until later that year, when I saw the A1200 in Amiga Format, that I began drooling. Fast forward 23 years and here I am staring at a 600 case, wondering what I can do to it. In my head, I was picturing a useful Linux machine capable of going online, playing games and running UAE (Ultimate Amiga Emulator). I had a Keyrah sitting on the shelf begging to be used, so what am I to do? Initially, I did nothing. Back when the Raspberry Pi was first released, it was intended for hacking LEDs & light sensors together or acting as the brains inside an electronic project. It wasn’t meant to be a desktop computer, it simply didn’t have the memory or power to handle it. Gradually, the Pi evolved, more RAM was added, the design was refined, software was optimised, until finally the Foundation released the Raspberry PI 2 Model B. Upgrading the tiny computer with a quad core Arm Cortex A7 processor, this update opened the door to variety of new possibilities, including my shelved Amiga project.
The Pi is very affordable when you compare it to other SBC boards. It also has the benefit of a rich and active community. Not to mention the copy cats that have emerged since its release. While some people might critisise them, I think it’s ace – competition is healthy. Children are once again wiring up things to their computers, learning how to program, learning LOGIC. Some of these kids might go on to shape our future and possibly develop the next breakthrough technology. But in the meantime, here at ByteMyVdu, we are more interested in seeing if a RPI2 can be merged with 20 year old Amiga…So read on and find out.
In the Beginning
Even before I started drilling or ordering parts, I knew one thing for sure, I wanted the hack to be neat, not just that, I wanted the Amiga PI to look no different to a regular Amiga. I wanted people to see it sitting on my desk and think it actually was an Amiga running Linux. But how to go about it? After all the RPI has vastly different ports to the Amiga. Instead of serial and parallel, we now have USB, and in place of composite there is VGA or if you prefer DVI / HDMI. There is also the RJ45 port, allowing you to hook the PI up to your network. Back in the day, the Amiga used serial or a PCMCIA modem to talk to the outside world. One thing was for certain, the back of the Amiga was going to look vastly different with all the new ports and connections, utilising the existing holes cut in the case would only end up looking odd. So I decided to craft a new back panel from 3mm acrylic. Taking measurements of the rear panel of the A600, I spent a Saturday designing a vector on my Macintosh Classic. Originally I’d been planning to write an article for BMV about the Manchester Play Expo, but the idea popped in to my head that it would be more fun to design the back panel. Surprisingly the process was very easy and transferring the design over to the main computer went without a hitch. So anyone who says that 68k Macs are useless really needs to have a rethink.
With the back panel cut from white acrylic, I began buying the cables necessary to extended the ports of the PI to the rear of the Amiga case. I shopped on eBay for all the things I needed, while Amazon might have stocked them, I wasn’t so enthusiastic about buying from them after being burnt in the past.
The list of parts I needed was as follows
- 1x Panel mountable, RJ45 extension cable
- 2x Panel mountable USB extension cable
- 1x Panel mountable Micro USB female to male cable
- 1x 3.5mm stereo to female RCA phono cable
With all the cables together, I went about installing the new back panel. Having already cut out the back from the Amiga case, I offered the new panel up to see how it look. Fortunately for me, my measurement had been pretty good and the new panel fit nicely against the back of the A600. Once the case was together, it was time to attach all the cables, screwing and gluing them in place where needed. While doing this, I discovered a handy Y shape USB splitter on eBay, turning one USB port in to two. It was only after I had installed the cable, that I discovered the splitter was only good for charging. No matter what I hooked up to the ports, nothing would appear. The only device that DID work was a mouse, pretty much cementing the fact, that the cable was complete rubbish. Luckily I’d bought two USB extension cables prior to seeing the splitter, so it was just a case of swapping the cables around. Even though I had glued the splitter in place, I was still able to extract it. With the new cables installed, I now had two fully working USB ports on the back of the case. As for the USB splitter, it went in the bin. The next step was installing the Keyrah. This little device from IndividualComputers turned the Amiga keyboard in to a USB device, enabling me to use it on the PI, so it was important I found space inside the Amiga to accommodate the PCB. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the joystick ports on the Keyrah lined up perfectly with those on the 600 case. I’m not sure whether this was intended, needless to say it made installation easy. The Keyrah does sit rather close to the floppy drive, which might cause problems in the future, should I wish to fit a disk drive. Later models of the Keyrah have a slot for connecting the keyboards ribbon cable, but mine is an early revision. So instead of a slot, the contacts are printed on to the PCB and a bar is used to hold the ribbon cable in place. All I shall say on this earlier design, is that I understand why they changed it. Every time I open the AmigaPI the ribbon cable would move, taking out the keyboard.
Because of the limitations of the A600 keyboard, the Keyrah has an on board switch, that swaps between two keymaps. Essentially giving you access to a full keyboard. Because the Keyrah resides inside the Amiga, I’m not sure exactly how they expect me to access the switch. Unless I was meant to cut an ugly hole just below the floppy drive, hmm I don’t think so! Perhaps at a later date, I will wire up a new switch and mount it on the back of the Amiga. One final aspect to wiring up the Raspberry PI with the Amiga case, was case lights. In what has to be the most hairy bit of soldering I’ve done. I removed the surfaced mounted LEDs from the Raspberry PI to gain access to the solder points below. Then using some IDE cable, I attached wires from the motherboard directly to the legs of the LEDS. Holding my breath, I turned the machine on and what do you know, the power and drive light came on. Not the sort of soldering I want to do on a regular basis, as my heart was in my throat the entire time I was soldering to the tiny PI board.
The combined power requirements of all these devices undoubtedly pushes a PI to it’s limits, at it’s best the PI has 1.2A devoted to the USB bus. If one or two of your devices are power hungry, the 1.2A cap can quickly become annoying. The only solution is to use a powered hub, which is exactly what I did. Due to the limiting space factor, I tried to avoid using as many connectors as I could inside. Instead opting to chop the ends of cables and solder the wires directly to the points on the hub. The PI hub has a 5v 2A port dedicated for powering the PI, so instead of using the intended USB cable, I soldered wires straight to the 5v and ground. I then soldered them to the power points on the PI motherboard, just below the micro usb power port. I also converted the power socket of the hub in to a female micro USB socket, which I glued to the back panel of the Amiga case. This meant I could continue using PI specific power supplies.
Soldering all these wires together, I made a very rookie mistake, by not taking in to account the resistance of the wires on the whole circuit. This became apparent the first time I booted up the PI. Even though I was using an official Raspberry PI psu, the square rainbow under volts icon appeared in the top right corner of the screen. Running a volt meter over the ground and 5v pin on the GPIO port, I discovered it was reading around 4.5v, not the 5.15v that I was expecting. If there is one thing I learnt during this build, it is that USB cable makes a poor substitute proper gauge wire. If you want to reduce high levels of resistance, make sure to use a decent gauge wire.
I learnt this lesson the hard way, leading to me to rewire everything a second time. After which the voltage over the GPIO port was restored to just over 5v. The original psu for the PI hub is rated at 5.2V 2A, which is more then enough to power a PI under normal circumstances. In the AmigaPi’s current configuration, it appeared just enough to power everything, the under volts icon appears whenever the rear ports are in use. With this in mind, a 3A power source will likely be on the cards.
Under the hood the AmigaPI runs the latest version of Raspbian, I have also installed UAE4ARM, the lastest Amiga emulator for the Raspberry PI. Not only does it receive regular updates, but it quite possibly the fastest Amiga emulator you can get on the PI. Configuring it to work can be a little tricky and keyboard support is not all there yet, but anyone who spends time reading on the Raspberry forum have little trouble getting it running.
There are a surprising number of Linux games available for the PI, ranging from Doom clones to arcade Galaga, you can even get point and click adventure games such as Beneath a Steel Sky. All of these work fine with the Raspberry Pi and are definitely worth a look at. DOSbox is also available I’ve yet to test it out, so I can’t say how good it is at emulating a DOS machine. But if UAE is anything to go by, it will hopefully manage 486 games without breaking out a sweat.
Being a Purist
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted the AmigaPI to look like an Amiga, with working Joystick ports, a functional floppy drive and PCMCIA port. Admittedly the rear of the computer looks different, but that couldn’t be avoided. The PI doesn’t have a serial or printer port like the Amiga, nor does it have an composite or RF connector. The only option I had was to give the new back panel an Amiga feel, which is why the power connector is in the far corner, why is has phono connectors for audio and two USB ports, in place of the old serial and parallel ports. The floppy drive is still a work in progress, as the floppy to USB adaptor I bought is sitting on my desk untested. Until I have a new power supply, I don’t wish to risk corrupting the SD card by causing a brown out. But hopefully in the near future the familiar click of a floppy drive will return to the old A600 case. Fitting the Amiga PI with a PCMCIA port seems a little redundant to me, as I had an old CF card reader kicking around, I decided to compromise. After all, when my A1200 isn’t on WIFI, it spends most of its time with a CF card adaptor stuck in the side. Equipping the AmigaPI with CF, meant I could easily transfer files, pictures, mods and ADFs back and forth between the AmigaPI and my regular Amiga’s. Something I envisioned being pretty useful at LAG meetings, when we are taking pictures of the meeting.
I honestly can’t believe I’ve finished this project, that I’m sitting here at this moment, typing on what looks like a regular Amiga 600. Except the badge bares a berry shaped logo and next to it, reads Raspberry A600PI. Ok it’s not a next generation Commodore product, but then when are we likely to see that happen? The reason people are still rocking Commodore products is because of the mindset behind them. The passion that drove the team who made the Amiga, still lingers, the embers faintly glowing from a fire that blazed decades ago. All I know DO know, is that I get a certain buzz from using a computer that fits inside a keyboard. Unlike my Windows 7 tower, I can thrown the A600PI in my bag and take it with me and who knows, maybe even play a game of Sensible Soccer over at a mates. Yes its dirty filthy nostalgia but on top of that, it’s turning the PI from a mass pile of wires, in to a compact, usable computer. I only have to connect power, VGA and mouse to get the AmigaPi up and running. Everything I need, is self contained within the confines of the A600 case. With a regular PI, I have to find my VGA to HDMI adaptor, WIFI dongle, powered hub, keyboard and mouse, before I even begin to think about powering it on. In short, its a real faff, but not any more!
So if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to play Cannon Fodder now, till next time keep on geeking!!
No Amigas were harmed during the making of this project, but one ropey looking, long dead 600 was given a new brain.
Greetings faithful readers!
First of all I’d like to thank everyone who reads my blog, on the 24th of October, BMV hit 66 views or put another way 32 visitors. While it doesn’t hold the title for busiest day, it still shows a regular foot fall through the virtual BMV doors and I am thoroughly pleased that people coming visit my tiny corner of cyberspace.
Not one to rest on my laurels, I’ve finally gotten round to working on a project I’ve been mulling over for the best part of four years, the Commodore Amiga 600 case mod. I was given a Keyrah by a fellow LAG member many years ago and its been sitting on the shelf ever since, waiting to be used. I can now finally say that time has come and the project has begun, so be sure to check here soon as I will be posting photo’s.
Next on the workbench is the long awaited Picade! Some of you may recall I did a review of the Raspberry Pi and the Picade and I’ve been waiting to finish the article ever since. Even more shocking was that I received an email asking when I was going to write the follow up! Thats right, some fool is actually reading my blog!
Well dear reader, I’m happy to say I HAVE the Picade kit from the lovely people at Pimoroni and it will be built in the near future, so expect a thorough review of this amazing bit of kit!
In the next few weeks I shall be looking at setting up a yahoo email account on an Amiga 3000 and Micro AmigaOne running OS4.1
After learning recently that my Yam guide had failed a fellow Amigan, I have decided to get the proverbial finger out and cover setting up email more thoroughly.
If anyone has any questions or would like me to cover something specific, please feel free to send in a message. I would love to hear from you!
So until next time, keep on geeking!
One of the features of WordPress, is it’s statistical display and how you can see what visitors have entered in to search engines, leading to them arriving at your blog. While glancing over the entries, I saw many where coming to ByteMyVdu for Amiga Wi-Fi help, Minecraft blackscreen issues and Gameboy screen problems.
One entry which caught my eye, was Amiga ebook manuals. Its not something I’ve really covered on this site and I had to have a think why. The only reason I could come up with, was that, I like many others who still use these computers already know how to operate them, but what if i didn’t? Would I know how to hook an A500 up? or that AGA games wont work on an A500? If the retro community is to keep going, then making the life of the first timer a little easier, is certainly one way to go about it.
So for that reason, I shall be including the odd link here and there with manuals, magazines to Amiga’s and other vintage hardware.
For now I leave you with the link below
I wasn’t able to find the author of the site, but they deserve high praise for gathering such a wealth of information.
If your searching for a user manual for a specific Amiga system, you couldn’t do better then looking here http://amiga-manuals.xiik.net/hardware/index.php
I highly recommend a thorough look over the site and not to grab your books and dash.
The name pretty much sums up this site very well. With online guides for several games, as well as high resolutions posters covering several platforms, your spoiled for choice. If after all that you are still not fully satisfied, the owner of this great site, has seen fit to provide you lucky so’n’so’s with the most complete collection of Amiga Format magazines to date. So unless you already owned them the first time around, it’s worth visiting this site and grabbing a copy. Amiga Format was THE Amiga magazine for most in the 90’s, each month coming with a cover disk or two and later a CD. Once a month you would find teenagers around the UK, sitting quietly reading their copy at school or home. Sucking in the latest news and reviews. while trying to figure out what game to grab the next time down the high street. Back then there where plenty of independent stores, such as Electronics Boutique, Gemsoft and Just Micro to name a few.
Now go grab yourself a copy of Amiga Format, chill out and feel the nostalgia man!
Till next time, keep it nerdy!
Commodore Amiga’s, WIFI and the internet (OH and Whoa)
For some time now I have enjoyed the delights of a wireless Amiga experience. Something up until recently i assumed anyone mad or sad enough was doing with their Amiga’s. In actual fact, my trusty Amiga 1200 has been surfing the world wide web since early 2009. Ever since i joined the Lincolnshire Amiga group and a member pointed out the PCMCIA port of my old miggy could be put to more use then sitting and look pretty. Having not used my A1200 for at least 10 years, i had a lot of catching up to do. And the idea of getting a 20 year old computer online was just too hard to resist. Needless to say with the help of Rockape, I was soon surfing the net and have been ever since.
Now with the history lesson out of the way, we come to present day 2012. I attend my first LAG meeting of the year and discovered new drivers have been released allowing my Amiga to understand WPA and WPA2 encryption. Surely not! the one bane of having a wireless Amiga has been that it restricts the level of security you can have on your home wifi to WEP or reserving MAC addresses. IMHO WEP is as effective at keeping your network secure, as putting a “Please don’t nick the telly” note on your front door for the burglars to read. Using MAC address filtering to only allow certain machines on your network is all well and good, but if you have friends around for an evening with say a laptop or tablet. Do you really want the hassle of turning on your computer to add your friends MAC address to your router? My answer is a flat NO! Ok WPA and WPA2 are not crack proof, but it still takes effort to break them.
So with news of the new drivers, i was eager to give them a try. Now for those of you who have not had much luck getting online yet with their Amiga’s. Here is my setup
A1200 – ‘030
CardPatch & CardReset
I shall not be covering the entire process of installing all this software, as a guide is already available on Wiki here Internet for A1200. If however you are hitting difficulties, feel free to contact me here or via Amiga.org. My user name is “Hiddenevil”, you will also occasionally find me lurking on the Amiga.org IRC chat room.
Part 1 – Prism2v2 and WPA/WPA2 & Firmware Flashing
ATTENTION READER – The following section describes and instructs you how to flash a MA401 wireless card. If you follow these instructions, you are accepting responsibility for the results. If you turn your card in to a jolly interesting paper weight, it is not my fault! You flashed it not me. However the follow method did work for me and as a result i now have two Amiga 1200’s using Netgear MA401’s online with WPA2. Netgear MA401 drivers can be found on the Netgear website, it will ask you to register but if you look closely you can skip this process and download the drivers.
Firmware – Out of the two Netgear MA401 cards we have, neither of them would connect to our network when tested on an old laptop running Windows XP. This is usually a sure sign that the firmware on the card needs updating. The Prism2v2 manual does give advice regarding flashing the cards, however I found the site suggested to be some what confusing. I’ve flashed phones, mp3 players and even Android tablets, the latter was a pain in the butt. I had never flash a PC card before and was not entirely sure what i was doing. Until i fell upon a guide that was very handy indeed.
Flashing MA401 Guide– Posted to Alt.Internet.Wireless by a user called Norm, back in 2004. I found his guidence to be immensely helpful. There is a wealth of information on the link i have provided and i highly recommend readers to pay close attention and read it thoroughly, it’s not a race, READ the tutorial slowly, a mistake will brick your card. To flash your Netgear MA401, you will need access to the following.
– PCMCIA port
– A Windows or Linux operating system
While i do run Ubuntu on several machines, the only computer i had handy to perform the flashing on Sunday. Was an old Novatech laptop running Windows XP SP3. As the guide is written from a Windows XP users view point, i would probably recommend you try follow suit, just to avoid more complication.
So you’ve possibly found a laptop still running Windows XP GREAT! So lets begin, for this next part I will pass you over to Norm. The mysterious do gooder who’s guide helped me. Dont worry, i’m not going anywhere..I’ll be right here watching over your shoulder, like the nosey sod I am.
The process (in brief) is:
– install Linksys WPC11 drivers
– use Intersil’s WinUpdate to update the card firmware
– install the WPA hotfix for Windows XP
– install WPA-enabled drivers
It’s common knowledge that the MA401 uses the Intersil Prism II
chipset. Most of the information on updating the firmware I got from
http://linux.junsun.net/intersil-prism/ (this is an excellent page and
also outlines how to do this under Linux)
Things you’ll need:
WinUpdate – this is Intersil’s Windows utility for updating the
firmware on Prism II-based cards. I got it from
http://linux.junsun.net/intersil-p […] -0-7-0.exe but it can
be found in a few places.
Firmware files – there are two files you need, a primary and a station
firmware file. I got them from
http://linux.junsun.net/intersil-prism/firmware/1.7.4/ but Jun Sun’s
page lists several other sources. Although there are multiple firmware
files, the ones I needed to update my cards were:
pk010101.hex – this is primary firmware version 1.1.1
sf010704.hex – this is station firmware version 1.7.4
Drivers for the Linksys WPC11 v2.5 from the Linksys website. I had to
install these drivers instead of the Netgear drivers to get WinUpdate
to communicate with the card properly during the firmware upgrade.
I’m assuming you already have the Netgear card and its drivers
installed. You need to go to Device Manager, right-click the Netgear
card, choose Update driver, choose “Install from a list or specific
location”, select “Don’t search. I will choose the driver to install”,
click Have Disk and browse to where you extracted the WPC11 drivers.
In the WPC driver setup files there’s a WinXP directory with a
LSWLNDS.INF file that you should select. You should see “Instant
Wireless Network PC Card V2.5” listed as the driver to install. When
you continue with the driver install, you may get a message saying
that the install process is going to update the firmware on your card.
Click Cancel when that message appears and close the Linksys firmware
update utility if it opens. When the new driver is installed you’ll
be able to run WinUpdate and update the firmware.
(Hey, hello!!? it’s me *waves*, see you thought i’d left didn’t you?. Well let me just interrupt Norm for a moment. When I ran the WinUpdate software for the first time, it did throw up an error. The first error was regarding the card, that it was unable to identify it.
Unlike Norm in 2004, i found the Linksys drivers to be the problem. So I rolled back to the original Netgear drivers and found this resolved the issue. In the next chapter he will talk about using the WinUpdate software. I would suggest that you try running Winupdate without installing the Linksys drivers. If you do get an error, install the drivers and give it another shot..now back to Norm)
Download and install WinUpdate. Open WinUpdate from the Start menu
under Prism Test Utilities. It should list the “Instant Wireless
Network PC Card V2.5” under Valid Adapters and will probably have
selected the adapter automatically. If not, highlight it and click
Open Adapter. In the bottom part of the window, click the Add File
button and select the primary firmware file (in this case called
pk010101.hex) and then repeat the same process to add the station
firmware file (called sf010704.hex). You should now see both files
listed in the window with a small P and S icon beside each file.
Confirm that the versions (1.1.1 and 1.7.4) show up correctly and then
click Continue. WinUpdate will do some quick checks to make sure the
firmware and your card match. If you get any strange errors here make
sure you stop and resolve them before continuing. I got errors at
this point before using the Linksys drivers, so make sure you’ve done
that. If WinUpdate doesn’t find any problems you’ll see an Update
Information window that lists information about your card like it’s
Platform, MAC Address and current firmware revisions. Below that will
be the paths to the new firmware files. If it all looks okay, click
on the Update button and the firmware will be updated. You’ll see two
windows, one after the other, that say “Flash Update in progress…”
and when they are both gone you should see a message that says “Update
successful”. To confirm that you card has been updated, go to the
Tools menu and select Query Firmware Version. You should see primary
firmware at 1.1.1 and station firmware at 1.7.4.
Hey how did it go? did you get it flashed ok? When i came to flash my second MA401 card, I encountered an error saying it could not be updated due to the card being 8008 platform. Now if you have been paying attention and read the page i linked, you might have noticed the comments that came after Norms guide. Others where having the same issue.
“I just tried to update my MA401 firmware and I also encountered the
same problem you have. But I just give it a try to update the station
file only for 8008 platform, s1010701.hex. Then follow the rest steps.
The MA401 card works well right now with WPA support.
You can download the file here.
http://linux.junsun.net/intersil-p […] 010701.hex,
which is the station file for 8008 platform. ”
Unlike before, you do not need two files to update this card, i simply loaded the s1010701.hex file in to WinUpdate and flashed the card. I found this sorted the problem
PART 2 Prism2v2 driver
Curiously something I noticed when installing the new drivers I obtained from Aminet. Was that the manual did not give much mention to WPA2. Perhaps this is a lack of looking on my part, but i could not find mention of WPA2 encryption settings. It did not help matters that the Installer only asks for a WPA passphrase and does not give you the option of entering in a WPA key. We can’t judge to harshly i suppose, as these drivers are free and truly I have nothing but gratitude for the people behind their development. However i think a revision of the manual and perhaps the installer is needed to help people who dont find all this a walk in the park.
Originally in the old setup, the Amiga received all of the important information about the WIFI setup through the user-startup sequence, using the line.
“C:SetPrism2Defaults SSID xxxxx KEY xxxxxxxxxx”
However this has now been replaced with a file found in you C:\Envarc\sys\wireless prefs
Open this file up and you will find the settings for your wifi. Unless you are using a passphrase on your network, you will want to replace everything in this file, with one of the examples found in the prism2v2 manual. Make sure you copy and paste the one for the WPA network! and alter it according to your network settings. If your using WPA2, you use the same settings as for WPA. This is something i didn’t see mentioned in the manual and held me up for a good hour, scratching my head.
Once you have done this, check your user-startup sequence found in your “C:\S\”. Make sure to place a “;” before all the “SetPrism2defaults” entries, otherwise you might confuse your poor Amiga. So you should have something that looks like “;SetPrism2default SSID xxxxxx KEY xxxxxxx”. With that done, turn off your Amiga and insert your wireless card. Turn the Amiga back on and get in to Workbench.
Once your booted, run MiamiDX and click the “Online” button, you should find it connects. If at first it doesn’t work, try again, sometimes it doesn’t work right away.